V/A-을까 봐/-ㄹ까 봐 Mastering Korean Grammar 179

내일 비가 올까 봐 걱정이에요.

In the intricate tapestry of the Korean language, certain expressions stand out for their frequency and significance in daily communication. 

One such gem is '-을까 봐/ㄹ까 봐,' a phrase that encapsulates worry or fear about potential future events. 

If you want to watch the lesson in Korean with English subtitles, please click the link below.

Usage of -을까 봐/ㄹ까 봐

• Worry: -을까 봐/ㄹ까 봐 expression used to indicate that the speaker is worried or afraid that the situation mentioned in the preceding statement may happen. 

• -을까/ㄹ까 + 보다:  As a complete expression, '-을까 봐/ㄹ까 봐' or its variant '-을까 봐서/ㄹ까 봐서' is typically used when there's apprehension about something potentially happening. It's a unique blend of speculation and emotion, reflecting the speaker's internal state of worry or anxiety.

  -을까 봐/ㄹ까 봐 + 걱정이에요/불안해요:  is often used with expressions like '걱정이에요' (I'm worried) or '불안해요' (I'm anxious). Or, alternatively, '-을까 봐/ㄹ까 봐' may precede a statement describing actions taken to prevent the feared situation. 

Let’s find out more by looking at the examples.

Explanation with Examples: -ㄹ까 봐 (Final consonant X)

Nana: 내일 비가 올까 봐 걱정이에요. (오다 + ㄹ까 봐)
I am worried it might rain tomorrow.)

→ Here, '올까 봐' is a combination of the verb '오다' and '-ㄹ까 봐.'  

→ Nana is going on a picnic at an amusement park tomorrow. But she is worried today. What if it rains tomorrow? She is worried.

→  This expression, '올까 봐', illustrates Nana's concern about the possibility of rain the next day.

Explanation with Examples: -을까 봐 (Final consonant O)

Nana: 약속 시간에 늦을까 봐 지하철을 탔어요. (늦다 + 을까 봐)
I took the subway because I was worried about being late for the appointment.)

→ Here, '늦을까 봐' is a combination of the verb '늦다' and '-을까 봐.'

→ Nana has an appointment at 1 o'clock. It's 12 o'clock now. She is about to leave. But, she is worried and thinks 'What if I'm late?'. She is worried.

→ '늦을까 봐' reflects Nana's anxiety about possibly being late. 

Grammar Tips: '-았/었/했-' (O) and '-겠-' (X)

① '-을까 봐, ㄹ까 봐' can be used with past tense markers '-았/었/했'. -

- 아이가 감기에 걸렸을까 봐 걱정했어요. (O) (걸리다 + 었 + 을까 봐)
   (I was worried that my child had caught a cold.)

→ Here, '걸렸을까 봐' is a combination of the verb '걸리다' and '-었-' and '-을까 봐.' That is correct.                  

②  '-을까 봐, ㄹ까 봐' cannot be used with the future/speculation expression '-겠-.'

- 수업이 일찍 끝나겠을까 봐 걱정했어요. (X) (끝나다 + 겠 + 을까 봐)

→ '끝나겠을까 봐' is a combination of the verb '끝나다' and '-겠-' and '-을까 봐.' That is wrong.

The correct expression is '끝날까 봐' or '끝났을까 봐.'

→ 수업이 일찍 끝날까 봐 걱정했어요. (끝나다 + ㄹ까 봐) (O)

    (I was worried that the class would end early.)

→ 수업이 일찍 끝났을까 봐 걱정했어요. (끝나다 + 았 + 을까 봐) (O)
    (I was worried that the class ended early.)

Combination Information V/A-을까 봐/ㄹ까 봐

• '-을까 봐/ㄹ까 봐' attaches after an adjective/a verb stem and N-이다.

① With Final Consonant: -을까 봐

           → 먹다 + 을까 봐 → 먹을까 봐

② Without Final Consonant & N-이다: -ㄹ까 봐

           → 가다 + ㄹ까 봐  갈까 봐

           → 거짓말이다 + ㄹ까 봐  거짓말일까 봐

 Special Case with 'ㄹ': Drop 'ㄹ' before adding '-ㄹ까 봐.

            만들다 (ㄹ drop) + ㄹ까 봐 만들까 봐

Practice with Real-life Examples '-을까 봐/-ㄹ까 봐'

1. 기차를 (놓치다) 집에서 일찍 나왔어요.

  → 기차를 놓칠까 봐 집에서 일찍 나왔어요. (놓치다 + ㄹ까 봐)
       (I left home early in case I missed the train)

2. 수업 시간에 (졸다) 커피를 마셨어요.

  → 수업 시간에 졸까 봐 커피를 마셨어요. (졸다 (ㄹ탈락) + ㄹ까 봐)
     (I drank coffee in case I fell asleep during class)

3. 선생님께 야단을 (맞다) 무서웠어요. 

  → 선생님께 야단을 맞을까 봐 무서웠어요. (맞다 + 을까 봐)
     (I was scared of being scolded by the teacher)

'-을까 봐/ㄹ까 봐' in Contexts: Dialogues for Better Understanding

미소: 너 소풍 갈 때 입고 갈 옷 샀어?

나나: 어. 근데 인터넷으로 사서 옷이 작을까 봐 걱정이야. 

미소: 괜찮을 거야. 입어보고 안 맞으면 바꾸면 되지.

  → '작을까 봐' is a combination of the adjective '작다' and '-을까 봐.'

(in English)

Miso: Did you buy clothes to wear for the picnic?

Nana: Yes, but I'm worried they might be too small since I bought them online.

Miso: It'll be okay. Just try them on; if they don't fit, you can always exchange them.

Challenge Yourself: '-을까 봐/ㄹ까 봐 ' Korean Grammar Quiz

Quiz 1: Try to fill in the blanks with the correct form of '-을까 봐/ㄹ까 봐.' (*irregular form)

ex.) 먹다 (eat) → 먹을까 봐

1. 사다 (buy)

2. 닫다 (close)

3. *열다 (open)

4. *덥다(hot)

5. *듣다(listen)

6. *짓다 (build)

Quiz 2) Attempt to complete the sentences using ‘-을까 봐/ㄹ까 봐.'

7. 미소: 커피 안 마셔요?

       영준: 네, 저녁에 잠을 못 (자다) 안 마시려고요.

8. 미소: 시험공부 많이 했어요? 

        나나: 네, 시험이 (어렵다) 열심히 공부했어요.

9. 미미: 발표 준비는 다 했어요?

        나나: 네, 준비는 많이 했는데 (실수하다) 걱정이에요.


7. Miso: Don't you drink coffee? 
    Yj: Yes, I'm not going to drink because I'm afraid I won't be able to sleep in the evening.

8. Miso: Did you study hard for the test? 
     Mimi: Yes, I've studied hard because I thought the test would be difficult..

9. Mimi: Are you ready for the presentation? 
    Nana: Yes, I've prepared a lot, but I'm afraid I'll make a mistake.

★ Answers

1. 살까 봐 (살다 + ㄹ까봐) 

2. 닫을까 봐 (닫다 + 을까 봐) 

3. 열까 봐 (열다 (ㄹ탈락) + ㄹ까 봐)

4. 더울까 봐 (덥다 (ㅂ→우) + ㄹ까 봐) 

5. 들을까 봐 (듣다 (ㄷ→ㄹ) + 을까 봐) 

6. 지을까 봐 (짓다 (ㅅ탈락) + ㄹ까봐)

7. 네, 저녁에 잠을 못 잘까 봐 안 마시려고요. (자다 + ㄹ까 봐)

8. 네, 시험이 어려울까 봐 열심히 공부했어요. (어렵다 (ㅂ→우) + ㄹ까 봐)

9. 네, 준비는 많이 했는데 실수할까 봐 걱정이에요. (실수하다 + ㄹ까봐)

❣️ Click the image to download the Quiz Pdf file.


Mastering the expression '-을까/ㄹ까 (추측) + 보다' is more than a grammatical achievement; it's a step towards understanding the emotional landscape of the Korean language. 

This expression allows speakers to convey their concerns and speculations, adding depth and empathy to their conversations. 

As you continue learning Korean, remember that these nuances make the language rich and engaging. 

We encourage you to practice regularly, immerse yourself in the language, and embrace every opportunity to communicate with heart and understanding.


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